An Evaluation of the Snack Tax on the Obesity Rate of Maine
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Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States and is becoming one of our nation's most discussed public health concerns. Americans are bombarded with advertisements for quick weight loss medications, diet plans, and novelty fitness equipment, all of which guarantee results overnight. But what impact has this had on the weight of Americans?
Traditionally viewed as an individual's disease, research now indicates that the environment is a main causative agent of overweight/obesity. Manipulation of food pricing to encourage consumers to make healthy purchases is a new area of public policy that can help address this epidemic, and has received reasonable academic interest.
As a pricing strategy, healthy foods can be subsidized to increase consumption, or unhealthy foods can be taxed to increase prices in order to discourage consumption. The state of Maine had a snack tax from 1991 to 2001 and provides a setting to evaluate the impact of taxing snacks, pastries, and soft drinks on a state's obesity rate.
According to the "law of demand", individuals will reduce their consumption of an item if its price rises. A snack tax increases the price of snack foods and soft drinks. Because consumption of these foods is associated with increased weight gain, it is hypothesized that a statewide tax on snacks and soft drinks in Maine would have a negative impact on the state's obesity rate.
This study utilizes an interrupted time series comparison group design to conduct a regression analysis with obesity data obtained from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey. This study seeks to examine the relationship between a snack tax and obesity rates. Although the regression model for the interrupted time series design was significant, the findings did not provide any significant results for independent variables that could help identify and interpret a relationship between the snack tax and obesity rates for Maine.